Thursday, September 20, 2007

Lesson for a Boy

Want an alternative to the Attridgean metrical system we learned that actually tallies with what other critics and poetry readers understand by English prosody? I thought so. Here's a little mnemonic ditty by Samuel Taylor Coleridge, written in 1803 for his son Derwent (does that remind anyone else of a De La Soul album?). Warning: it gets a little mushy at the end.


Trochee trips from long to short;
From long to long in solemn sort

Slow Spondee stalks; strong foot! yea ill able

Ever to come up with Dactyl trisyllable.

Iambics march from short to long; --

With a leap and a bound the swift Anapests throng;
One syllable long, with one short at each side; --

First and last being long, middle short, Amphimacer
Strikes his thundering hoofs like a proud highbred Racer.

If Derwent be innocent, steady, and wise,
And delight in the things of earth, water, and skies;
Tender warmth at his heart, with these metres to show it,
With sound sense in his brains, may make Derwent a poet, --
May crown him with fame, and must win him the love
Of his father on earth and his Father above.
My dear, dear child!
Could you stand upon Skiddaw, you would not from its whole ridge
See a man who so loves you as your fond S.T. COLERIDGE.